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Who's Available?

One of the popular subjects of summer, both before and after the draft, is the possibility of trades.  The Blazer front office has done nothing in the past couple of years to quell that talk either.  They’ve proven they’re not shy about making moves if they feel the time is right.  Seemingly no time is more ripe for trades than draft day, which will no doubt cause the speculations to reach a fevered pitch in the month to come.  In preparation I thought we’d take a look at who’s available…not around the league, mind you, but around this team.  How willing would the Blazers be to move a player and why?

At the beginning of the discussion we should affirm that the Blazers are in an enviable position because they don’t have to move any of their guys.  This is the single most important thing to remember.  For the first time in years there are no truly horrible pieces on the roster when you consider talent and contracts.  Well, there are no horrible pieces that we can do anything about, that is.  Steve Francis will still be on the books this year for an awe-inspiring $14.7 million.  (I’m not sure at this point if that amount is reduced by his Houston contract.  Perhaps Storyteller can tell us.  But if it is, it’s a drop in the bucket comparatively.)  Other than Francis, we have only one double-digit contract on the roster, that being Raef LaFrentz at $12.7 million, and his contract is expiring after the coming season.  The next biggest contract is Joel Przybilla at $6.3 million.  After that it’s all young, high-potential, low-salary players.  This puts Portland in the driver’s seat as far as any trades.  I don’t think anyone (reasonable) would be disappointed if the Blazers didn’t make any moves over the summer.  Anything we do should be clearly to our advantage…the icing on the cake.  Not a lot of teams can say that.  Some have to make moves immediately to get or stay in contention.  Some have bad contracts, disappointing players, or poison attitudes they’re eager to dump.  We’ve been there before (hello, last summer) but there’s not a whisper of that anymore.  To all appearances, Blazer management will have to be convinced to make a trade.  Around here it’s a seller’s market.

Here’s a list of our players and some speculation under what circumstances they’d be available:

Greg Oden and Brandon Roy:  We start with a pairing, as these two are pretty much in the same situation.  They’re completely untouchable short of a flat-out crazy offer.  Oden is a legit LBJO player.  (That’s “Lebron James Only” for the uninitiated.)  Anything short of that is going to get a polite refusal.  Roy isn’t quite at that level but he is the long-term face of the franchise, and a great one to boot.  He’s not only incredibly talented, he’s a team leader and fits like a glove with the community.  We will never receive an offer for him high enough to make us think twice, as the only guys we’d consider would fill similar roles on their own teams.

There’s been speculation about Oden’s knee and its effect on his value or potential for trades.  The impact is minimal.   He’s a once-in-a-generation center.  He’s also very young.   He could have a legitimate 15-16 years left in the league.  The Blazers would not have drafted him #1 overall if they didn’t believe those had the potential to be championship years and they’re going to take the long-term perspective.  They’re also going to weigh relative value.  In essence we have a Deal or No Deal situation going here.  The million dollar jackpot case is still in play for the Blazers.  There’s also a lesser amount possible…maybe $50,000.  Nobody’s sure what’s in Portland’s case.  Still, even with a 50-50 chance at the million (and I’m betting the Blazers place Greg’s odds of recovery far higher than that) you’re not going to take the banker’s offer of $340,000 or so.  We’re in this game to walk home with the grand prize.  That means holding on to our case.

Lamarcus Aldridge:  Lamarcus is already a very good player in his second year.  He could legitimately develop into a great player with a little more bulk and experience.  He’ll form a great frontcourt tandem with Oden.  Nevertheless, he’s still a shade different than Roy and Oden.  Despite the seeming move towards guard-dominated play in the league great big players are always rarer and thus more valuable.  Lamarcus is young and has an extremely attractive contract compared to his talent potential.  That means he’ll be a hot item in trade offers sent Portland’s way.  Would the Blazers actually pull a deal?  Almost certainly not, but you can never say never.  If somebody stunned Kevin Pritchard with an offer that accelerated Portland’s contention curve by a year or two he might have to think about it.  And if he did think about it, Lamarcus would almost certainly be the big linchpin of that trade from our end.

Travis Outlaw:  Travis is another intriguing name.  His performance this year was excellent compared to years past, but it was not necessarily anything to write home about for the average 5th year player.  A lot depends on whether you think he’ll develop into the unstoppable scorer we’ve seen glimpses of.  If he can play his best ball with regularity people will scream for years about how unfair the Portland roster is.  On the other hand if he only shows flashes of scoring greatness he’s fool’s gold.  Another issue for the Blazers is position.  If Travis is truly a power forward we don’t have enough minutes for him to become great as long as Lamarcus Aldridge is still on the roster.  His contract is also appealing if you believe in his potential, which would make him a likely candidate for trade.  There’s no way the Blazers are just going to give him away, but you can bet his name will be brought up this summer more than once.  If the deal is right, the Blazers would probably part with him.  One wrinkle:  he’s a Base Year Compensation player until July 1.  His salary is only $4 million which doesn’t make a trade impossible, but it’ll be somewhat easier to deal him after that date.

An Interlude Here:  I am sorry to interrupt the post with a non-sequitur, but I had to put this in the context of another post to avoid it being possibly deleted.  Consider it like a secret “Easter Egg” on a DVD.

It has come to my attention that there is a site out there purporting itself to be a source of NBA news and talk that is engaging in reprehensible online behavior.  Basically they rip posts from sites like this one and re-post them in their entirety with no links back to the original source.  I would consider the fact that they’re plagiarizing our work as a form of flattery except that upon perusing their site I found that they even reprinted posts that are site-specific and have nothing to do with the Blazers or the NBA, such as the FanPost etiquette post the other day.  Obviously nobody is even reading the content, they’re just lifting it.  The effect is both amusing and horrifying.

If you’re reading this right now, you should know it comes from Blazersedge.com.  We have no problem with being cited and discussed…that’s what makes the online world go ‘round.  But if you don’t see a prominent link back to Blazersedge in what you’re reading, then the site you’re on has stolen this material.  Please understand, we don’t really make money doing this, but the only chances we have to get the occasional ad or to get things like media credentials for the team and the NBA Summer League--things which improve the quality of the coverage you read--lie in our overall hits, visitors, and links from other sites.  When a third-party site takes material without credit, not only is it intellectually dishonest, it will eventually reduce our opportunity to do this work in the best manner possible.

In my estimation it will be difficult to get the site in question to stop.  They (predictably) don’t even have contact information listed.  They don't care.  However I don’t think it’s out of line to offer an appeal to you, the reader.  We’re all supposed to be concerned about global issues and taking care of our world and each other.  This is the online equivalent.  I know it doesn’t rise to the level of world hunger or disaster relief, but even small ills are still ills.  If you’re reading this on a site that steals its posts, you’re only one click on the “add to bookmarks” menu from reading the same material in a legitimate way that helps and supports our community instead of hurts it.  I hope that’s not too much to ask.  I would also affirm for all current and prospective readers of Blazersedge.com that when we cite other people’s materials on this site, whether it be the authors on the main page or the readers in the sidebar, we only quote a portion of the piece and we always provide a link to encourage people to read others’ work on their own sites and thus reward them for doing it.  Now back to business…

Martell Webster:  The one big reason not to trade Martell is the team’s impending need for outside shooting.  After a rough sophomore season Webster seemed to stabilize somewhat this year.  He is good from distance and likely to become better.  Plus you don’t get a ton of shooters who aren’t specialists.  Martell has a chance to be more.  He faces some of the same questions Travis does:  Will he fulfill his potential?  Will we have enough minutes for him?  Will he develop quickly enough that we feel confident about giving him his next contract?  If we think any of the above answers are “no” trades for Martell will likely be entertained.  Otherwise he’s about the same as Travis as far as “tradeability”, perhaps with a little less reluctance to part with him.

Joel Przybilla:   Joel is an interesting case.  He could be, and will be, a good backup center.  It’s certain that we’ll need a competent backup center in the coming year.  It’s also certain that the headlights for Blazer trades are on high beam, shining way further down the road than just next season.  What will Joel’s prospects with the team be in the long run?  Certainly the hope is for Oden to play 35-38 minutes per game.  Is Joel a viable 10-13 minute option?  Does he see himself in that role?  Joel’s contract is decent for a competent center…right in the middle of his target zone.  It’s hard to imagine him being a throw-in but it’s also hard to imagine a team trading just to get him.  He could be a potential piece in a two-for-one deal where we also send one of our youngsters.  In the end our plans for Channing Frye may factor as heavily as anything.

Channing Frye:  Channing is another one of those bargain pieces that’s neither fish nor fowl.  He has talent but he’s not yet a well-rounded player.  Then again as 6’10” player with scoring touch making a little over $3 million a year he doesn’t have to be.  He’d probably be a great piece as part of a package.  We may not have room for him to play here next year either, especially if Joel factors prominently into our pivot plans.  It’s a little hard to imagine Channing getting traded just a year after we acquired him but it’s also hard to imagine him becoming a long-term part of the Blazers’ plans.  If the right deal came now it would be a go.

Raef LaFrentz:  Raef was a completely untradeable piece until now.  Nobody would have taken his contract without severe inducements.  His expiring salary changes that situation somewhat.  Keep in mind, though, that expiring contracts are not what they once were in the league.  Cap management has refined to the point that most teams aren’t jumping at extra space the way they were a few years ago.  They want a target for that space and a reasonable expectation that they can acquire that target.  Nobody wants to be left holding their cap space in their hand or having to fritter it away on mediocre players or re-signed guys.  That means Raef would probably only be attractive to a few teams and more likely at the trading deadline than this summer.  Raef is the Blazers’ sinecure as far as cap space next summer.   But if they feel they can get next summer’s deal now they’ll certainly be willing to move him.

Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack, and Sergio Rodriguez:  There’s been a ton of debate surrounding these three, their place on the squad, and their individual pros and cons.  From an overarching trade point of view they’re probably all in the same boat though.  If we could get a well-rounded, experienced point guard with the talent to lead this team into the next decade we wouldn’t hesitate to trade any of these guys.  Whichever of them remained would probably make an adequate backup, if not now then in the future.  We like all three but other teams could have their pick of the three if the price was adequate.

James Jones:  We don’t know about until he decides whether to exercise the last year of his contract.  If he does it’s unlikely he’d be happy about being traded, but then again he wouldn’t have much of a say and we’d part with him if necessary.

Rudy Fernandez:  Is not getting traded yet.

Everybody Else:  Is cap filler.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)